In 2002 I took this picture of The Eagle and Child in Oxford. This pub was the haunt of the Inklings, a writers’ group that included J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. They met there every Monday or Friday before lunch to drink and talk. I was alone and too chicken to go in by myself, but it’s cool to think of the meetings that took place within these walls.
The introduction to the White Horse Inn program describes a time five centuries ago when the masses met in taverns and public houses to discuss and debate ideas. From one such inn, the White Horse Inn in Cambridge, the Reformation came to the English speaking world.
I belong to various groups and attend meetings. I don’t expect to ever replicate what happened above, but I don’t think we’re trying hard enough. Although I have a few friends who fit the bill, and I’ve experienced a little about what I’m about to describe, it’s only enough to tease me and make me want more.
Here’s what I’d love to find: a group of people who get together and:
- Eat. There has to be food. Something happens when you turn to others around a table and eat steak and kidney pie or whatever, and lift a glass together. The whole experience becomes relational.
- Discuss theology. I am tired of pragmatism. We need to get practical but we can’t start there. We can’t just emote, neither can we only talk how-to’s. Ideas have the power to change the world. I love sitting together with others who are not just wrestling with what to do but who are talking about what to think, who are dipping into some of the best thinkers of the past, and who believe the good stuff is found at the theological, not the methodological, level.
- Are open but orthodox. Some of my best interactions have been when people from different backgrounds and beliefs are thrown together. Some groups I’m part of are too insular. I want a group that is orthodox but in which we benefit from those who think differently. In other words, it has to be a group in which we talk about our differences honestly but without getting all polemical.
- Care about mission. If people like Christopher Wright are right (and I think they are) and mission is the basis of the entire Bible, then good theology will propel us into mission. We should become a group of people who are changing the world around us.
As I say, I have hints of some of these, but I want more. I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.